December 14, 2016
By Katrina Hohlfeld
Editor’s Note: The following is a review of “Jimmy’s Carwash Adventure.” a new children’s book by author Victor Narro that explores workers’ rights. “Jimmy’s Carwash Adventure” is out now on Hard Ball Press — a publishing house dedicated to helping working class people like Narro tell their stories.
New York, NY – It is never too early to being teaching children about receiving fair wages for their work, and Victor Narro’s book provides an excellent vehicle to introduce the topic. “Jimmy’s Carwash Adventure” is a bilingual book (English and Spanish) about a young boy who learns how important it is to stand up for worker’s rights.
As the title implies, the book is centered around the local carwash where Jimmy often goes with his father. It is here that Jimmy witnesses a labor strike for the first time, and he is understandably concerned. These are members of his community, people who he knows to be hard working and kind. So why are they not being paid fairly for their labor? And what will this strike do to help? Jimmy’s father turns away from the scene in case of trouble.
There is an element of danger when people are angry and frustrated. Strikes can certainly be frightening, yet fear is not Jimmy’s first emotion. In the following days, he presses his father, his peers, and most importantly himself in order to understand the situation as best he can. This is an incredible teaching moment, because Jimmy’s thought process shows a child how to work through a similar problem. Jimmy’s father tells him, “Life is not fair”. No, it certainly isn’t. But Jimmy does not take this explanation as a reason to walk away from the demonstration he has seen as the carwash. Instead, he takes a risk.
Jimmy makes himself a sign and goes to stand with the carwash workers. His parents are upset at first, but when Jimmy explains why he has taken this action they are moved. It is the child’s action that prompts his father to take another look. This part of the story is particularly important, because children need to know that their decisions hold value. Their choices do matter, and their voices can be heard. Jimmy decides that this strike is not something to be avoided, or feared. It is a vehicle for change and empowerment, and it should be seen as such. Those that provide service are not invisible, and this is a powerful lesson that I hope many of our youngest generation will understand. This book reminds us that it is often the children, with their unclouded view of the world, who are best able to enact change.
There are also a few carefully posed questions at the end of the story that can further encourage conversation about the presented topics. Ideas like fair wages, immigration, and risk can be complicated, and it is important that we do our best to communicate these ideas through both conversation and by our own actions. Narro has done a superb job with illuminating these themes in an accessible way, accompanied by the lovely illustrations of Yana Murashko. The Spanish translation done by Madelin Arroyo Romero allows for an even greater opportunity for this book to be read. More families reading this book to their children could only serve to heighten awareness of labor rights, and that in and of itself is a wonderful thing.